displaying books in the playroom

One year in college my best friend {and roommate} made fun of me because I brought with me a few of my favorite children’s picture books.  Not only did I travel with them from Seattle to LA, but I proudly displayed them on our coffee table.  And I’m not talking about sentimental books that I had as a child. Oh, no. These were ones I had purchased myself, probably that summer, just because I loved them so.  I don’t know … there has always just been something charming and wonderful about illustrated children’s stories. I remain unashamed.

Now, a few years later, I have an appropriate excuse to collect children’s books and believe me, our house is full of them. So rather than tuck them away spine-side-out on a bookshelf, we proudly display them on the wall.

We just moved pretty much every room in the house around, so what you’re seeing here is a sneak peek of the new playroom {recognize those stripes? This used to be the boy’s bunk room}. I’ll share the rest of the room soon, but wanted to show you a super simple way to display books.  Perhaps you’ve seen this elsewhere – this is not necessarily a new idea, but it’s a good one.

These picture ledges are from IKEA and are made to display art, but they work just as well holding books. They are narrow and just right for layering – you can really pack a bunch onto each shelf.

One of the best things about it is that kids can see the covers when choosing a bedtime story and they can easily put them back. Big bonus.

Favorite picture books hang out on the shelves, while paperbacks, bibles & devotionals, star wars books and Dr. Seuss go in baskets below. Surprisingly, they actually do stay categorized like that.

Functionality is great, but my favorite part is seeing all of those darling illustrations.

44 Responses to displaying books in the playroom

  1. Melanie March 27, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Hi, I have had the image of those book ledges pinned for over a year and I finally was able to make some. I’ve been in the process of making over my son’s playroom. Thanks for the inspiration! They are already encouraging more reading, now that he can easily see the books rather than them being jumbled up on the shelf.

  2. Mellie September 14, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Save the $129 (WS price) for the Breville steamer. Just get a little handheld frother ($19.99 at Williams Sonoma- but you can find them for less at discount stores). Heat up your milk and any other flavors in your microwave and stick the frother in for the nicest frothiest foamiest milk you can imagine. Yum. Enjoy!

  3. EMC September 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I love the fabric on the sofa pillows! Where did you find it or the pillows? Thanks!

  4. Julie McMillan September 12, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    OMG!! SO sorry……..I just read through the responses to the comments and saw that you said you got the curtains at IKEA! Thanks!

  5. Julie McMillan September 12, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Your house looks SO cute! Just wanted to see if you can let us know where you bought the adorable polka dot drapes! Thanks a bunch!

  6. shelley September 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I just added these to my Ikea shopping list. =)

    I couldn’t help scanning your shelves. I LOVE Alphabeasties. You have a fantastic collection. I consider myself insanely blessed – I get to illustrate children’s books for a living! I’m still amazed by it. =)

  7. Absolute Condos September 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Loved the book shelf. Curtains are also amazing.

  8. Vicki September 11, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Love the illustrated books also. Our three remember childhood in different degrees. We have one who hardly remembers being read to but I remain vindicated because she fortunately has a twin sister who tells her they were read to constantly . It became somewhat of a joke so throughout her teenage years I would pick out a special children’s illustrated book for her, write her a note about her year and give it to her. She moves these books everywhere and gets out The Velveteen Rabbit or some other childhood classic when she wants a warm fuzzy. They seem to be like old friends. Still do it now occasionally and she loves additions to her collections and proudly displays as a new married girl.
    When her twin sister went to Vet school the first Christmas I was at a loss as to some things to warm up her nest. At Christmas I bought an oval basket and searched for great children books on being a veterinarian ( or animal stories of note about going to the doctor) and placed them in the basket. She keeps them in her guest bathroom and are quite the conversation piece when friends come over. She admits to reading them herself. She has books like Berenstein Bears go to the Doctor and Everybody Poops to name a few off the top of my head . Maybe one day she will move them to her Veterinarian Clinic waiting room.
    Yours look way better than art work. Can’t wait to see the new rearrange.

  9. Jen Fedler September 11, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Such a cute idea! I have been searching for a great book for my niece, who is turning 1 in a couple of weeks. Thanks to you, I discovered “Alphabeasties” and just ordered a copy from Amazon!

  10. Joy September 11, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Love this idea, also where did you find the pillow on the sofa. Thanks

  11. Maggie Patton September 11, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    Emily, I absolutely love your blog and your decorating style. I cannot wait to see all the updates you have done throughout the house. Please share pics soon!

  12. Emily September 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Your book display is a fabulous idea, and i love how your entire room is put together. I’m showing these shelves to my husband right now, and he’s curious if they are a pain to put up. We’ve put gallery shelves up in other areas and it’s not his favorite project (to say the least!). Looks great!!

    • emily September 11, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      These are actually quite easy to put up. There are just three screw holes and then you cover the screw with a provided white sticker.

  13. Diane | An Extraordinary Day September 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Oh yes! I totally get it! I don’t even have kids and I have a collection of children’s books….and many from my childhood as well. Any book illustrated by Eloise Wilkins makes my heart melt. Just love those children’s faces that she paints. A few weeks ago I bought a children’s book from the 40’s at a neighborhood yard sale…..I’m totally smitten. :D

    Love your book wall. Always, always, creative Emily!!! I bet your kiddos are thrilled.

  14. Grace September 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Love the idea! We are working on growing our boys book library. I think that from now on I am planning to buy each kid 3 new books for their birthdays and Christmas. Would you mind making a list of your favorites? Looking at this picture and it seems there are some great books that you have that I have never seen! Thanks!

    • emily September 11, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      love this idea. I’ll put together a list of my favorites!

  15. Ada in Coastal Cali September 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    long live charming wonderful PAPER books!
    (I still can’t adapt to the virtual book, nope its paper for me)

    I am curious if you remember what those treasured books were you took to college? I remember being sad that my treasured ones got passed down to younger siblings instead of me keeping them all to myself.
    Fav I can recall:
    Tiki tiki tembo
    500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (sp)
    Kings Stilts
    and some book about a girl that asked only for shoes for her birthday, got all sorts different kinds ballet, tap, boots, dress up, sneakers, etc and then her feet grew. Can’t remember the name of that one, but I loved it.
    and I loved the atlas. Maps. weird kid.

  16. Stacey September 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I love children’s books too! There are so many good books with beautiful illustrations. I don’t blame you for displaying them. We just moved into a new house and my oldest son doesn’t live here. I’ve been working on a room that’s sort of a nod to him…it includes a shelf of Hardy Boys Mysteries because he read all of those. :)

  17. Collette Douglas September 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Totally pinned it! I have a few of those shelves laying around not being used at the moment–what a great idea to put them to use!

    And if you love kids books so much, you might consider writing/illustrating your own! The Pioneer Woman has succefully published a few of her own! GO FOR IT! Your work is always amazing :)

  18. Ashley H September 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Can you tell me where you got the chevron rug? I’m designing my little girls nusery (due in January) and i have been looking for one everywhere and cant seem to find one. I have found them in pink and blue, but not a grey like i need. Thank you

  19. Ashley September 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Love these…I cannot wait to see the rest of the house. Can you do a post on your favorite children’s books? I LOVE children’s books too…I have three boys too. I would love to read your thoughts on great stories. Thank you!!!!

  20. Cassie Kulp September 10, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Love this! I am a fellow children’s book lover. I can’t wait to see all the rearrangements! this one looks wonderful :)

  21. Jera September 10, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    I love this! I am keeping all my favorite kids books- plus buy my favorites!
    Sometimes I ask my kids to be really really careful with “my” books now.
    I am going to do this instead of hide them.

    What colors on the wall- the stripes? I couldn’t find it on your blog….I need to stripe a wall- that is perfect for me.

  22. Haydee @ {how sweet life is} September 10, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    We have this set up in our girls room and baby nursery. Only three shelves though in each, so it’s a bit higher and kind of behind the chairs we use to sit with them for bedtime reading. Only problem is keeping them there! The girls climb on the chairs to get to the books and they never put them back! Their downstairs play room is full of books too. It’s a good problem to have because they can’t get enough of their books. {Thanks for sharing!}

  23. Kimberly September 10, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    My children are now teens and I have kept many of their children’s books. The Lonely Doll, Angelina Ballerina, Eloise, all were lovingly displayed in my daughter’s room, becoming art. I love your book display, as well as, the basket of children’s books. It makes the room pop with color. Terrific! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Our Learning September 10, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    What a beautiful, inviting display! We love having children’s books out at our house too. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Elizabeth September 10, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    these look so cute!! having children naturally warrants children’s books…which naturally means books are strewn about…this is a lovely, lovely way to display them!
    i love that pillow on your couch ~ where is it from?!

  26. Gina Diamond September 10, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    This looks awesome! You are right about the illustrations in the books….so much fun! This is far better than the bookshelves and tops of closets I used over the years! Inspiration!

  27. wendy September 10, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Cute idea! My daughter is well past this stage, but it’s adorable. i would like to know where the fantastic chevron rug is from – i love it!!

  28. Renee September 10, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Do like the bookshelves. On my way to get some. Where did you get your polka dot drapes? Great!

    • emily September 10, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      The polka dot drapes are from IKEA. The rug is from Urban Outfitters.

  29. Helen September 10, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Love this idea and also love your dotted drapery! Where did you get them?

  30. Pam September 10, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    I’m right there with you there is nothing like children’s books! I loved displaying and rotating my daughters books when she was little. You could always find me in her school library volunteering and watching what the kids would pick.

  31. Kara Jo September 10, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    I spy the Jesus Storybook Bible :). So, so good!

  32. Estela September 10, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    I keep meaning to do something like this in my kids room. Mostly to get the books out of the bookcase to make room for more of mine…hehe. Love the gray and white striped walls!

  33. Sarah September 10, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Yes, where are those curtains from??

  34. Kristine September 10, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    <3 this! It's so important to have accessible books for your children and teach them to treasure them! This is a great display that any child (& adult) will love! Thanks for sharing!!

    P.S. I loved your intro story as well..and I can relate..friends/family used to give me kid's picture books as gifts since I love them so much!

  35. Nicole September 10, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I love this idea! And I don’t judge you at all about loving children’s books; I’m the same way. My favorite is Willy the Whale and I can’t find it in any bookstore! I guess I’ll try to search online again.


  36. Seriously Sassy Mama September 10, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    I like the curtains.

  37. Sarah September 10, 2012 at 4:20 am #

    Thanks for sharng this! Totally pinning. I have seen the rain gutter shelf idea but not these shelves. Of course the closest ikea is a 2 hour drive, but many they’ll let me order these. Also love your stirips : ). I have a massive playroom in my new house and need to redesign it.

  38. Kelly September 10, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    Being a book lover I know where you are coming from, and I love your display! Looks colorful and is functional. What could be better? The illustrations in I’m Gonna Llike Me are so cute, I thought about framing them at one time – in fact all of hers are frame-worthy.

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